The Killing Field, Golgotha, The Rwanda Here. These were the captions Nigerian newspapers and news magazines used in aptly describing the genocide committed in Ogoni by the Nigerian State in the mid1990s. Of course, the indignant declaration by the psychopathic Paul Okuntimo, a then Army Major placed in charge of the Ogoni pacification project, that he had 204 methods of killing people, of which he had only deployed one in Ogoni, (more were to come) made news around the world. Halfway into the mission, the psychopath was withdrawn and replaced by another Army Major, Obi Umahi, a sadist of the extreme order, who proved deadlier than Paul Okuntimo. This monster, who expressed a personal grudge against Ken Saro Wiwa, conducted the most ruthless operations in Ogoni in those days. Take a look at this caption in the TELL magazine newspaper: BLOODBATH ON OGONI DAY . This caption refers to Major Obi Umahi’s operations in Ogoni, on Ogoni Day, January 4th,1996; the first Ogoni Day observed after the November 10, 1995 hangings. The entire Ogoni territory was locked down-no reporter was allowed into Ogoni that day. Paul Adams of the Financial Times, the only reporter who braved the risks and sneaked into Ogoni that day was promptly arrested and detained at the Headquarters of the Rivers State Internal Security Task Force; as Major Obi Umahi and his murderous troops went on a killing spree.
Major Obi Umahi was so obsessed with Ken Saro Wiwa that he was determined to obliterate his memory from the universe. He would harass newspaper and book vendors who sell Ken Saro Wiwa’s books. On one occasion he had Ken Saro Wiwa’s books confiscated from a newspaper vendor at the Point block of the government secretariat in Port Harcourt. He tried his worst to prevent the Ogoni people from mourning Ken Saro Wiwa and eight of his compatriots who were hanged along with him. But we were equally determined not only to mourn our heroes but to also keep their memories alive. So when Major Obi Umahi locks down our villages we would go into the woods to observe November 10 and Ogoni Day, January 4th.
In those days the barbaric ruling military junta in Nigeria went to great lengths to conceal and cover-up the atrocities they were committing in Ogoni . They were so desperate that they would arrest and detain journalists who were brave enough to venture into Ogoni land to report the killings and destructions in the area. Security forces would raid news media offices and abduct reporters and editors for reporting stories on Ogoni. A vivid example is the arrest of James Akpandem( The Punch correspondent in Port Harcourt) Casmir Igbokwe (The News magazine correspondent in Port Harcourt) and Chris Ukwunzie (of blessed memory), the then Rivers State correspondent of the Vanguard newspapers. Those brave reporters were seized from their offices in Port Harcourt by troops of the Rivers State Internal Security Task Force on the orders of the sadistic commander of the squad, Major Ob Umahi, and detained for weeks.
The pacification project led to the elimination of an entire generation of the Ogoni leadership, including its leading light and the prime target of the Nigerian ruling cabal, Ken Saro Wiwa ,and thousands of other Ogoni natives. Entire Ogoni villages were leveled in a war-like invasion and a scorched earth operation, unprecedented in the history of that damned nation.
The dawn of a quasi democratic experiment, brought a lull in the military operations in Ogoni. At least the military operations were less brazen. However, successive post military (civilian) administrations in Nigeria have refused to yield an inch to Ogoni demands. On the contrary, there have been covert efforts at undermining the Ogoni struggle by weakening MOSOP, the vehicle of the struggle. So rather than extending the dividends of the perpetually experimental democracy in Nigeria to Ogonis and assuaging our sufferings, the Nigerian ruling cabal has been more fascinated in further marginalizing and dehumanizing the Ogoni.
While our oil money is being expropriated and used to develop the Hausa/Fulani nation, General Buhari feels the best projects for Ogoniland are prison complex and cemetery. It’s like let’s punish them for daring to protest their situation. And General Muhammadu Buhari seems too eager to remind us that he belongs to the barbaric military establishment which unleashed a reign of terror in Ogoni. And that he is determined to finish the unfinished mission in Ogoni. However, the Ogoni people may be disappointed but will never be surprised because the ruler ship in Nigeria does not change. The change from Khaki to Agbada is only cosmetic. The ruling cabal remains the same. There is the military and civilian wing.
The Ogoni people’s cause conveyed by MOSOP, Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, has been about protesting the complete destruction of the Ogoni environment and ecosystems, resulting from decades of reckless oil field operations by transnational oil corporations and utter neglect and unbridled injustice perpetrated on us by successive Nigerian administrations. And we have carried on our non-violent pursuit of justice in the face of unspeakable violence unleashed on us by the slick allies S(hell) oil and the barbaric Nigerian ruling cabal. Each time we ask for bread we are given bullets instead. Our noses have been bloodied but our heads will never bow. We will not waiver. We knew for sure that in a struggle like ours there was going to be set backs, but that would not diminish our resolve or deter us. We are prepared for a long distance race. No amount of intimidation and clampdown can extinguish the flame of MOSOP . The Ogoni struggle is generational. Ogonis unborn today will continue with the struggle. There is no going back, until justice is achieved or the oppressive Nigerian state is brought to its knees.
Now, the Nigerian government’s decision to cite a prison complex and a cemetery in Ogoni represents a major escalation in the perennial assaults on our people. Is this President Buhari’s brazen arrogance or the case of a clueless leader being ill-advised by some mischievous elements in his administration? Either way, he cannot be absolved from blame arising from a bad judgment and calamitous consequences. What a weird project? A prison and a cemetery? What a combination? So what is the economic benefit of citing a prison and cemetery project in a community ravaged by poverty and underdevelopment?. What is more, this is a community that is emblematic of ethnic cleansing in Nigeria. So General Muhammadu Buhari is poised to present to the international community a concrete evidence that he is planning a pogrom in Ogoni- the round two of the genocide of the Ogoni people. We have always feared the possibility of the Nigerian state turning the entire Ogoni land into a graveyard. We never knew they would be so audacious in laying bare this plot.
It must be some remarkable coincidence that the Buhari administration is unveiling its Cemetery and Prison projects in Ogoni at the same time as the plot to forcefully resume oil exploitation in the area is thickening. Of course, they know the Ogoni people are going to resist the planned invasion of our land with every fiber in our veins. We are going to resist to the last man. So General Buhari reasons that the massacre that would ensue would require a massive cemetery to take care of the dead. And that whoever survives the impending apocalypse would be sent to jail. This sinister plot must be nipped in the bud. For humanity sake ,it must not proceed.
The United Nations Environmental Program, UNEP, in its report estimated that it would take at least 30 years for the oil spill devastation of the Ogoni environment to be cleansed . That is whenever it is begun. The clean-up has not begun. In fact, there has been no preparation as stipulated in the UNEP Report, towards starting the clean-up . As for HYPREP, this is one giant fraud designed by the Nigerian government to circumvent the UNEP Report’s Recommendations. And those of us in MOSOP have been protesting this fraud from day one. It must be scrapped.
And there is no conceivable way that anyone would reasonably expect a resumption of the devastation of the Ogoni environment through another round of reckless oil exploitation activities without first cleaning up an earlier mess. Yet, it is amazing if not pathetic to see the Nigerian government behaving as if the proposed clean-up project is some form of favor to be done to the Ogoni people. No, it is their own mess, committed by their slick ally, Shell on their behalf.
As for resumption of oil exploitation in Ogoni by Shell or any of its proxies, there will be NO MORE OIL PRODUCTION in Ogoni; the Abuja High court ruling notwithstanding. The blood of our martyrs have effectively sealed up Ogoni oil wells. And the persona non grata in Ogoni declaration on Shell stands.
However, the consolation for the Ogoni people at this time is that these bullets no longer hit us solely. These bullets seem to be hitting everybody (every tribe) in the country at the moment. To quote Pastor Reno Omokri,: “Our security issues have metastasized into a hydra-headed monster, with Boko Haram in the Northeast, Bandits in the Northwest and herdsmen nationwide”. The entire Nigerian landscape is like a landmine waiting to be torched off.
As for the Ogoni people, we are already used to dying. And in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” we will wear them (our Nigerian oppressors ) out by our capacity to suffer”. Nigeria is already a failed state; waiting to finally collapse . And there is a good chance that the Ogoni nation will ultimately outlast that phony entity called Nigeria. Ogoni has survived other despots before General Buhari, such as General Ibrahim Babangida and the late wild beast, General Sani Abacha. Muhammadu Buhari appears to be the last of the Pharoahs. OGONI WILL SURVIVE even as Nigeria goes down the rubbish drain of history.